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McCLATCHY FINDS NEW HOMES FOR COWLES DIVISIONS Acquisition costs offset; TCI sheds papers, plans cable role for Salt Lake Tribune

McClatchy Newspapers Inc. has softened the financial blow it is absorbing in buying the Star Tribune of Minneapolis by selling the magazine and book units of Cowles Media Co. for more money than had been anticipated.

Sacramento-based McClatchy and Cowles, owner of the Star Tribune, jointly announced the sale of Cowles Business Media Inc. and Cowles Enthusiast Media Inc. to New York-based PRIMEDIA Inc., while Cowles Creative Publishing Inc. will be acquired by a management group led by the unit's current president, Iain Macfarlane.

When McClatchy announced the $1.4 billion Cowles purchase in November 1997, CEO Gary Pruitt said the nonnewspaper properties would be sold, with the selling price anticipated to be about $150 million. The three-way transactions, expected to close in March, were valued at $208 million.

PRIMEDIA, until recently called K-III, said Cowles Enthusiast Media would be a freestanding unit within its Specialty Magazines Group while Cowles Business Media would join its trade and technical unit, Intertec. Among the titles PRIMEDIA is buying are Fly Fisherman, American Demographics, Folio:, Cable World and the SIMBA newsletters (of which NewsInc. was one until August 1997). It also will acquire the Media Central site on the World-Wide Web.

In Idaho, two newspapers will be returning to their former owner. TPC Holdings Inc. of Lewiston, Idaho, will gain the Lewiston Morning Tribune, Moscow-Pullman Daily News of Moscow, Idaho, Whitman County Gazette in Colfax, Wash., and Daily Sparks Tribune of Sparks, Nev., from Kearns-Tribune Corp., a subsidiary of cable giant Tele-Communications Inc. of Denver. TCI will retain ownership of the Salt Lake Tribune, which it bought in July 1997 with the other four newspapers when it paid $731 million for Kearns-Tribune. The Salt Lake Tribune Publishing Co., created to manage the Tribune for TCI, will continue to do so.

TCI plans to move rapidly to integrate the resources of the Salt Lake Tribune with its Salt Lake City cable system, said TCI President Leo Hindrey Jr.

"We're excited about the possibility of a hybrid cable-newspaper model in the Salt Lake City market," Hindrey said. "I would hope to do it in 1998," he added, noting that TCI has experience in other markets, specifically Chicago, where it works with the Chicago Tribune to support the cable channel Chicagoland TV (CLTV), and in the Pacific Northwest, where it and A.H. Belo Corp. of Dallas have projects. "We are anxious to do it" in Salt Lake City, Hindrey said.

Heading TPC Holdings is A.L. Alford Jr., publisher of the Lewiston paper, who sold it and the Moscow-Pullman Daily News to Kearns-Tribune in 1981. When the TCI purchase was in the works last summer, Alford proposed buying all but the Salt Lake Tribune. "It made sense to me," he said, playing as it did into "a desire by TCI to continue with the ownership of the Salt Lake Tribune as a leading western states metropolitan newspaper." Hindrey concurred, saying the smaller papers "will be wonderfully and more capably managed" by Alford.

Tribune Solutions, a technology company born in the arms of the Lewiston Morning Tribune, will continue to be owned by TCI and based in Salt Lake City. Alford said the Lewiston paper would continue to serve as a beta test site for Tribune Solutions.

On the East Coast, Journal Register Co. of Trenton, N.J., completed its $3.8 million acquisition of HVM L.L.C. of New Milford, Conn., adding eight weekly newspapers and three magazines to its mix of dailies, weeklies and magazines.

The deal was Journal Register's third acquisition in less than a month, which Robert Jelenic, the company's chairman, president and CEO, said reflected Journal Register's plans to grow aggressively now that it is a publicly traded company. That the new papers are near existing properties is coincidental, Jelenic said, although the company will take advantage of proximity to consolidate some operations, such as printing several of its Connecticut weeklies at a main printing plant in North Haven, Conn.

Jelenic said mailroom and pressroom employees at the HVM facilities were offered jobs elsewhere. "We kept virtually all the other employees," he said, and will also keep the magazines, including the Housatonic Valley Business Digest.

And in the Caribbean, the Virgin Islands Daily News has been sold by Gannett Co. Inc. to a local businessman, Jeffrey Prosser. The new owner of the 16,000-circulation six-day tabloid has appointed The Cole Group, publishers of NewsInc., to manage the business and editorial operations of the paper on an interim basis.

-- P.W.
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Date:Jan 19, 1998
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